Climate Scientists: Ready to Strike

This blog is based on the post Climate Scientists: Ready to Strike.


A recent article in the New York Times discussed the frustration that many climate scientists feel when it comes to communicating their findings. The subtitle for the article reads,

Evidence on global warming is piling up. Nations aren’t acting. Some researchers are asking what difference more reports will make.

An environmental scientist, Dr. Glavovic, has called on his colleagues to stop their research and conduct a mass walkout.

Dr. Glavovic worked alongside nearly 270 other experts on the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body that assesses climate research. The new report, all 3,675 pages of it, was issued on Monday and concludes that global warming is outpacing our ability to cope.

Timothy F. Smith, 50, a professor of sustainability at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, said he and his colleagues had long wrestled with doubts about their work: “Is it worth continuing if we’re not having the impact that we need?”

The situation can be summarized as follows,

  • Climate scientists, such as those interviewed for the article, have worked long and hard to establish the facts of climate science. They have done this work out of a sense of commitment. They are not paid for their work on the IPCC reports.

  • Their work is thorough and authoritative.

  • No one is listening to them.

  • A decision to go on strike will not change the situation.

The frustration of these scientists is basically to do with failed communication. They are finding that publishing lengthy, hard-to-read reports is having almost no impact on how people or governments act. As we say in the post Another Clunky Sentence, the general public is unable and unwilling to read these reports. Hence the reports, and the scientists that write those reports, are ignored.

A second problem is that the scientists’ message is one of fear. They are saying that bad things will happen to us and to our children if we fail to act on their warnings. People are much more likely to listen to a message of hope.

A theme of our posts is that climate change is no longer a matter of science. We have been told for years that, “We need to listen to the scientists”. That phase is behind us. The science is established. It is important that people such as Drs. Glavovic and Smith continue to do their work because it is so foundational. But we should not ask the scientists to get the word out - that is not their area of expertise.

We now need to listen to the engineers and project managers — the people who can develop realistic responses that can be implemented on a world-wide scale in less than three decades.